They are young, they are many and they are angry. At the same time they are quite peaceful. They are the “Occupy Central” movement, which started with the occupation of Hong Kong government buildings around 28 September. Young people from Hong Kong all over the world, including some at Erasmus University, support the demonstrations.

Using umbrellas to protect themselves from the pepper spray used by police, the movement grew rapidly, occupying several central areas in Hong Kong.

The goals of the protesters are clear: Free universal elections of the “Chief Executive”, the city’s head of state. Although the Chinese government had previously stated that free universal elections would be held in 2017, all candidates still have to be appointed by the Communist Party on the mainland.

Democracy is being taken away

Christine Fong, who recently graduated from her Master’s program in Psychology at RSM, was born and raised in Hong Kong. For her the situation is clear: “People are not just protesting because of a single event. They feel that democracy is being taken away from them bit by bit by the Chinese mainland government.”

Despite the slow fading of the protests, Christine believes that these will not be the last ones to take place. “These are the biggest protests since my birth. So I think they can be seen as a turning point in our political awareness. Before them many people in Hong Kong were quite uninterested in democratic issues. This has changed.”

Support rally

Meanwhile, students from Hong Kong have organised a support rally in The Hague. Among them were EUR students, as Christine tells us. Most of them were exchange students, who raised banners and shouted slogans in front of the Chinese Embassy.

Excessive police force

Coe Li, a second year IBA student from Hong Kong reports that her friends from secondary school and some of her family members have joined the protests. They feel that the violence used by the police is excessive, as the protesters were peaceful.

“There are people hired by the government to make the protesters look bad. This was uncovered by WhatsApp messages offering people around EUR 100 for engaging in violent behaviour.”

Not very optimistic

While student leaders are supposed to have a public debate with government officials on 10 October, Christine is not very optimistic about the results: “I do not think that the Chinese government will agree to more democracy. If they would do that, cities like Macau would start to demand the same rights. And that is something the Communist Party really wants to avoid.” ET